NSW ‘staggered’ return to school: some students may need in-class time more than others


Andrew J. Martin, UNSW

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian yesterday announced school students would return to face-to-face classrooms in a staggered fashion from May 11, the third week of term. She said students would initially return for one day a week, and their time at school would be increased as the term progressed.

She said by term three, she hoped all students would be back at school full time.

But schools were given flexibility on how this return may look. NSW education minister Sarah Mitchell said

We want them [schools] to make sure they are having about a quarter of students [from each grade] on campus each day […] But how they break that group up will be a matter for them.

The NSW government said students would complete the same coursework whether they were at home or on campus during the staggered return.

This announcement is a quick turnaround from only a few weeks ago, when the NSW government said parents must keep their children at home if they could. In the latest press conference, the government said 95% of students were working from home during the final weeks of term one.

There are a few possible reasons for NSW to have made this decision. It allows children to re-connect with teachers and peers; it is one way to have fewer students on campus at any one time; it helps parents observe physical distancing during drop-off and pick-up times; and it allows a systematic escalation to two days, then three days and so on.

A staggered return to school starts moving the wheels of school campuses and infrastructure out of hibernation, at the same time helping some parents and carers return to work.

But as an educational psychologist, I am also considering this difficult decision from the perspective of the students who may be most at need of returning to class. These include those in year 12 and students in kindergarten.

Specific year groups should take precedence

It’s worth schools considering staggering the return to school from a “whole-cohort perspective” (such as all of year 12). This tries to take into account what specific cohorts of students need, developmentally and educationally.

Schools will differ in how they implement these ideas and will need to balance educational with physical distancing concerns – and their capacity to manage groups of students in the context of their physical and staffing environment.

Year 12s

The cohort that has the least amount of time to acquire time-sensitive learning would be all of year 12. There are university-bound year 12 students who would benefit from being well on top of the syllabus knowledge that is assumed in their target university course.




Read more:
COVID-19 has thrown year 12 students’ lives into chaos. So what can we do?


There are also students bound for TAFE and apprenticeships who need to get practical experience, key competencies or work placement hours.

So if the health advice allows for the staggered approach the NSW government is proposing, it is worth considering that all year 12s return to school five days per week.

Kindergarten

Moving into “big school” is a massive developmental transition which has been disrupted for the 2020 kindergarten cohort.

These children need a solid early foundation of core social, emotional, literacy and numeracy competencies.




Read more:
Children learn through play – it shouldn’t stop at preschool


Years six and seven

Year six is the final year of primary school. It is where social, emotional and academic competencies are being honed and rounded ready for high school. And for year sevens, the transition to high school is a major psychological and academic adjustment, laying important foundations for their high school journey.

Year 11

Some universities are considering last year’s year 11 results for application for 2021 course entry. While the hope is everything will be back to normal come next year, there is the brutal reality that some nations have experienced second waves of COVID-19.

There is no vaccine yet, and we are only very gingerly taking baby-steps in easing restrictions.

This means we may need to take actions this year to insure year 11s against the possibility of school and assessment disruptions when they are in year 12 next year.

Disadvantaged students

We need to do our best to avoid widening any existing learning gaps during the remote learning period. Schools could encourage academically at-risk students – such as those with learning disorders, or executive function disorders such as ADHD – to start attending targeted in-class learning. This could allow for some bridging instruction so these students can make a strong start when the rest of their year group returns to in-class instruction.

Managing the numbers

An approach where initially only some year levels go to school while others remain learning remotely may make it easier for teachers.

It is not straightforward to develop both an in-class and a remote learning instructional program to accommodate a one day return, then two days and the like. Teachers are concerned at the extra workload this approach may mean for them.

There may also be significant between-school and between-teacher differences in how this is done – potentially leading to an uneven playing field for a given year group.

Teachers know how to teach a whole year group in class for five days of the week – and students know very well how to learn in this mode.

As we continue to navigate uncharted waters, there will be no perfect approach. Whatever the decision and however it is implemented, we must continue to be guided by our health experts, and we must hasten slowly.The Conversation

Andrew J. Martin, Scientia Professor and Professor of Educational Psychology, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What might trigger a return to ‘normal’? Why our coronavirus exit strategy is … TBC


Katherine Gibney, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and Jodie McVernon, University of Melbourne

The unprecedented restrictions Australians are living with are working, so far, to curb the rise in new COVID-19 cases.

Nationally, on average around 50 new COVID-19 cases were reported each day in the week leading up to April 15, compared with a peak of 460 on March 28.

Fewer people are testing positive, and these cases are infecting fewer additional people, as we close international borders, work and study from home, keep 1.5m apart and limit unnecessary travel.

New modelling indicates ten people with the virus now infect only five others.

So many people are asking when physical distancing measures can be relaxed.




Read more:
Latest coronavirus modelling suggests Australia on track, detecting most cases – but we must keep going


When can life go back to normal?

The simple answer is, life as normal cannot resume anytime soon. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said current restrictions will be in place for at least the next four weeks.

COVID-19 remains highly infectious, and our population is still almost entirely susceptible to catching it.

Most people won’t have been exposed to the virus and won’t have built up immunity to it. And we’re unlikely to have a vaccine for at least the next 12–18 months.

This means we need to continue to modify the way we work, socialise and travel to minimise the chance of catching the virus.

What might trigger a return to ‘normal’?

When we know who’s immune

Serosurveys survey the population for antibodies in blood that protect against COVID-19. These can indicate the proportion of the population with natural immunity after COVID-19 infection.

These studies are underway internationally, including in the United States, and are planned for Australia.

Eventually they could inform who gets vaccinated and guide decisions around lifting restrictions. But these results are still likely to be some time away.




Read more:
Here’s why the WHO says a coronavirus vaccine is 18 months away


Few new unexplained local cases for at least two weeks

The widespread physical distancing measures in place in Australia aim to prevent community transmission of COVID-19. This is distinct from border measures, which are designed to prevent the introduction of new cases from overseas.

As the restrictions on daily life have important health, social and economic ramifications beyond COVID-19, we will need to begin to roll them back before the Australian population is COVID-19 immune (and before we have results from serosurveys to confirm this).

These changes could begin when the number of locally acquired cases, particularly those transmitted in the community without a known source, is very low for a sustained period. This would need to be longer than the incubation period (the time from infection to symptoms showing), which for COVID-19 can be up to two weeks.

Now is an appropriate time to develop this “exit plan”, but we need to be cautious and responsive in doing so.

More testing, tracing and quarantine

First, we need an even stronger capacity to identify and isolate cases, and to trace and quarantine contacts.

As we’ve increased testing capacity in Australia, we’ve also expanded testing criteria. While initially restricted to returned travellers and contacts of a known case, some jurisdictions are now testing all people with COVID-19 symptoms – regardless of their travel or contact history – to determine the extent of community transmission.

Testing should continue to identify geographical areas or sub-populations with ongoing (or new) transmission, to pave the way for rapid and targeted public health responses.




Read more:
More testing will give us a better picture of the coronavirus spread and its slowdown


Once a case is identified, a network of thousands of contact tracers work to to identify their contacts and provide advice around quarantine requirements.

Many countries have employed technological solutions such as contact tracing apps, and Australia is looking to follow suit. But such an app will be effective only if uptake is high.

Fewer than one-fifth of Singapore’s population had downloaded their TraceTogether contact tracing app by April 1, well short of their target.

When we know more about people with mild or no symptoms

Social distancing measures minimise the risk a person will transmit the virus to others when that person doesn’t know they’re infected. So before we consider relaxing them, we need to better understand the relative infectiousness of people with no or mild symptoms.

Studies currently underway are following families and close contacts of cases to see who develops typical COVID-19 symptoms, who is infected with mild or no symptoms, and who is not infected.

Likewise, understanding the role of children in transmitting infection is essential to support reopening schools, with appropriate social distancing in place. Research is similarly underway to attempt to answer this question.

We will likely see restrictions lifted in stages

While returning children to classrooms and opening businesses will be a priority, restrictions around international travel are likely to be in place for many months. Isolation of cases and quarantine of contacts are likely to be ongoing.

While Australia is developing its “exit plan”, other countries have revealed theirs. Iceland has announced physical distancing restrictions will be gradually lifted starting on May 4, including increasing the limit for gatherings from 20 to 50 people, and re-opening schools and universities.

Likewise, Norway is planning to re-open kindergartens, primary schools and certain businesses from April 20.




Read more:
The coronavirus contact tracing app won’t log your location, but it will reveal who you hang out with


Even the best-laid plans might not eventuate. Physical distancing measures had been relaxed in Singapore, Japan and South Korea after flattening the curve, but were recently re-introduced following a surge in cases.

No-one knows how the coming months will play out, but this is a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll need to carefully manage the risks that come with easing restrictions. But Australia is well-placed to do this, having successfully navigated the COVID-19 journey so far.The Conversation

Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and Jodie McVernon, Professor and Director of Doherty Epidemiology, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison’s return to surplus built on the back of higher tax – Parliamentary Budget Office


Saul Eslake, University of Tasmania

First, the good news. The Parliamentary Budget Office’s latest medium-term budget projections provide
independent reassurance that the government’s personal income tax cuts, announced in the May budget and passed through parliament in June, can be funded without pushing the budget back into deficit.

But they also sound warnings about the downside risks from weaker-than-assumed economic or wages growth, and from any relaxation of the spending restraint
that successive governments have maintained since 2012.

More income tax

The PBO projects the federal government’s “underlying” cash balance to improve from 0.8% of GDP in 2021-22, the last year of the latest budget’s forward estimates period, to 1.3% of GDP in 2028-29.




Read more:
Budget policy check: does Australia need personal income tax cuts?


That’s after allowing for the revenue forgone by the tax cuts. Without these, and in the absence of any other spending or revenue measures, the surplus would have reached 3.7% of GDP (my calculation, not the PBO’s), largely on the back of the “bracket creep” that would have occurred without some form of personal income tax cuts between now and then.

Even so, there’s an awful lot of bracket creep.

Projected change in average income tax rates by quintile.
Parliamentary Budget Office, 2018-19 Budget: Medium-Term Projections (September 2018), CC BY

The average tax rate across all taxpayers is projected to increase from 22.9% to 25.2% – that is, by 2.3 percentage points. For taxpayers in the second and middle quintiles (the middle fifth and the second-to-bottom fifth) it’s even worse. They will see their average rates rise by more than 4 percentage points. The average tax rate for those in the top and bottom quintiles will climb by less than 1 percentage point.

The PBO’s projections allow for only slight additional relief; small reductions in 2027-28 and 2028-29, worth about 0.4% of GDP, to ensure tax receipts remain within the government’s “cap” of 23.9% of GDP in the final two years of the 10-year projection period.

A helpful backdown on company tax

The PBO’s forecasts don’t allow for the government’s recent decision to abandon
the previously proposed cut in the corporate tax rate for companies with annual turnover exceeding $50 million, which it had been unable to pass through the Senate. That would add the equivalent of almost 0.5 of a percentage point of GDP to the surplus by 2028-29, unless offset by other measures (which it probably will be).




Read more:
The full story on company tax cuts and your hip pocket


By law, the PBO is required to use the same economic assumptions in framing its medium-term projections as those used in the most recent federal budget.

Wishful economic thinking

These requirements mean the projections are conditioned on, among other things, “above-trend economic growth for much of the period” and “a return to close to trend wages growth” by 2021-22.

This week’s national accounts data lend some near-term support to the first of these assumptions, but they (and other data) cast further doubt on the likelihood of wages growth returning to trend in line with the budget assumptions.




Read more:
This is what policymakers can and can’t do about low wage growth


The PBO notes that, as a direct result of the government’s personal income tax plan, any weakness in future tax receipts flowing from “weaker economic circumstances” will “flow through directly to the budget bottom line”.

A decade of tight spending

The report highlights the importance of policy decisions in stemming the flow of new spending decisions and tightening eligibility for benefit payments since 2012.

Much of the impact of these will show up more clearly over the next decade. Apart from three areas – the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), aged care and defence, on which spending is projected to rise by a little over 1 percentage point of GDP over the next decade – other government spending is projected to
fall by around 2 percentage points of GDP between 2017-18 and 2028-29.




Read more:
Government spending explained in 10 charts; from Howard to Turnbull


The PBO notes that “the spending restraint seen over the past few years … may be
increasingly difficult to maintain with an improving budget outlook”.

(Unintentionally) highlighting that risk, the PBO explicitly notes that the proposed further increase in the pension eligibility age to 70 between 2023 and 2035 – which the government abandoned this week – was “projected to have a significant impact on Age Pension spending … over the next decade”.The Conversation

Saul Eslake, Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow, University of Tasmania

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cricket: The Ashes Report – 15 July 2013


In the end it was a very close match that England won and Australia lost. The first test of the current Ashes series is over with plenty of controversy and action a plenty. It was a great game, though sadly it will be remembered for the controversy surrounding the DRS as much as for the game itself. But having said that, Australia really did a bad job in the way it used the DRS system, while England handled the DRS masterfully and full credit to them. With just 14 runs between the two sides, the second test has a lot to live up to following this match.

I can’t really make any useful comments on the English team, but as far as Australia is concerned I think it is time for Ed Cowan to be shown the door and for David Warner to return. Failing the return of Warner, who I believe has been sent to Africa with Australia A for some batting practice, perhaps it is time for the return of Usman Khawaja. The Australian batsmen really need to lift their game, because in reality the match was a lot closer than it should have been and they have the lower order to thanks for that – particularly the bowlers.

As for the bowling effort – work needs to be done also. There was far too much waywardness in the fast bowling ranks. Thankfully Nathan Lyon should be banished to the sidelines given the performance of Ashton Agar – a spinner who actually spins the ball and he can bat, which is very handy in the absence of a reliable upper order.

Australian Politics: 14 July 2013


With the return of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister in Australia, things have been moving along fairly quickly in Australian politics. Time of course is running out as an election looms, so time is necessarily of the essence. One of the areas that the ALP has moved to address is the carbon tax, with Kevin Rudd’s government moving toward an emissions trading scheme. This has brought the typical and expected responses from the opposition, as well as charges of hypocrisy from the Greens. For more visit the following links:

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/kevin-rudd-confirms-government-to-scrap-fixed-carbon-price-20130714-2pxqi.html

The link below is to an article that pretty much sums up the situation currently in Australian politics I think – well worth a read.

For more visit:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jul/12/tony-abbott-fall-stunt-men

Also causing continuing angst in Australia is the issue of asylum seekers and boat people. There has been even more terrible news from the seas surrounding Christmas Island, with yet another asylum seeker tragedy involving a boat from Indonesia.

Around the edges of the mainstream parties are those of Bob Katter and Clive Palmer. There are stories of an alleged financial offer from Clive Palmer’s ‘Palmer United Party’ to join with ‘Katter’s Australian Party’ for $20 million dollars and form the combined ‘Katter United Australian Party.’ For more visit the links below:

http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/national/palmer-denies-deal-with-katters-party/story-e6frfku9-1226679175607
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-14/katter2c-palmer-at-odds-over-claims-mining-magnate-offered-fin/4819098

And finally, for just a bit of a chuckle – not much of one – just a small chuckle, have a read of the following article linked to at:

http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/turnbull-still-not-laughing-at-tonys-internet-humour/story-fnii5s3z-1226679169349

Catastrophic Fire Conditions: Bushfires Return To Australia


The link below is to an article reporting on the catastrophic fire conditions currently gripping Australia. After a couple of unusually calm bushfire seasons, this one may very well be the most catastrophic of them all.

For more visit:
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/01/06/officials-cant-rule-out-casualties-after-australian-wildfires-destroy-100-homes/

Latest Persecution News – 11 June 2012


Violence Continues in Nigeria as Akinola Criticizes President

The following article reports on the latest news of persecution in Nigeria where Islamic estremists continue to attack Christians and their churches.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/nigeria/article_1563037.html

 

Court Rulings Mirror Fears, Hopes in Egyptian Vote

The following article reports on the fears and hopes of Egypt’s Christians in that country’s return to democracy.

http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/egypt/article_1567353.html

 

The articles linked to above are by Compass Direct News and  relate to persecution of Christians around the world. Please keep in mind that the definition of ‘Christian’ used by Compass Direct News is inclusive of some that would not be included in a definition of Christian that I would use or would be used by other Reformed Christians. The articles do however present an indication of persecution being faced by Christians around the world.

Harold Camping: Fall Out from False Prediction of the End Continues


The latest in End Times predictions by a PreMillenialist has ended in falsehood yet again. This should come as no surprise, given that no-one on earth serves in any role on the Lord’s ‘returning to earth committee (not that there is such a committee I should make clear).’ The day is not known to anybody, whether saved or unsaved and will not be made known until such time as it actually happens. Of all the difficuties surrounding the interpretations of End Times Eschatology, surely that is one of the clearer areas that most Christians should be able to agree upon.

Sadly there are too many who are willing to presume a role in deciding the time of the Lord’s return and yet again we have another example of such a delusion causing the name of the Lord and His followers to be mocked on the earth. This is all that can happen from such flights of deluded fancy, excepting the destruction wrought in the faith of some believers that are caught up in such delusive predictions.

For more on the fall out of Harold Camping’s falsehood see:
http://www.christianpost.com/news/harold-camping-bashed-as-false-prophet-on-family-radio-airwaves-50713/